Fall Guys as a metaphor

My first step in this assignment was to generate a list of things I felt strongly about. I wanted to use a random number generator to help me pick a card from Dan Lockton’s deck, so having multiple options would give me leeway in picking my favorite out of the random assortment. Here were my five combinations (take a guess whether I love or hate these products):

  • How can the Mint app be a metaphor for democracy
  • How can the MTA be a metaphor for unwritten rules
  • How can NYU Albert be a metaphor for adaptability
  • How can Wegmans be a metaphor for protection and safety
  • How can Fall Guys be a metaphor for being an immigrant

I liked all of them, but as the post title suggests, the last one was my favorite. I’ve been playing Fall Guys since its release week, and have felt every type of frustration and exhilaration that the game can bring. For those unfamiliar, Fall Guys is a battle royale game, where players join lobbies of 60 and compete in multiple rounds of races, survival games, team games, etc, in order to be the last jellybean standing and win a golden crown. The colors are bright, the style is bubbly, the music is exciting, the physics are wonky. It’s great fun even as — and especially if — you’re getting tossed into the air by a giant windmill.

My mind immediately connected some elements of the game to my own journey from an F-1 visa holder to adjusting my status as a permanent resident. As you start out, you’re not sure what to do, and anything can throw you off course. With time and practice, you may learn how to navigate the path, but still at any time you may experience some random glitch that completely changes your journey (for better or worse).

A lot of times, you succeed after a long struggle trying to make it work. Sometimes, you’re doing everything right but still fail through no fault of your own. Other times you struggle the whole time, to no avail. And sometimes, or to some people, everything goes according to plan.

Of course, not everything is a neat metaphor. The immigration process is not meant to be fun and exciting — even when it’s going smoothly, it’s a long and boring experience, as all bureaucratic ones are. There’s no thrilling soundtrack or costume shop. You do not want to be cute or memorable at your visa interviews, and at least as far as I’ve experienced, there is no fanfare or confetti when your case gets approved: you get a letter and a card, and carry on with your life. Your success in this journey looks mundane to an outside observer.

So to emphasize the metaphor, we would have to change those dissonant elements. To turn Fall Guys into an exercise of empathy towards immigrants, I would:

  • Remove animations, celebrations, and customization.
  • Remove the soundtrack. Replace with either full silence or innocuous elevator music.
  • Limit the color palette. For the sake of my sketches, I replaced all colors with the USCIS website’s color palette: a mix of grays, two muted blue tones, and one red.
  • Change the failure/success text (ELIMINATED! or QUALIFIED!) with USCIS notices.

Here are my sketches to visualize the revamped game:

beginning the race
There’s a randomness to the starting positions. Some people spawn further back even though there’s space in the front. Maybe your case file gets lost somewhere, maybe you’re assigned a case worker that’s overworked.
being eliminated:
Failure means your life is upended — if your case goes to removal proceedings, it means you are likely getting deported.
taking shortcuts
Maybe you manage to get a good lawyer, or you know someone who’s been through the process before and can give you tips. That allows you to save some time and energy, getting to the finish line faster.
crossing the finish line
Victory still looks bureaucratic, coming with disclosures and caveats that can dampen your excitement.

You might tolerate the game to get your crown — here this could symbolize keeping your family together, or having job opportunities you wouldn’t have elsewhere, or any other reason why people immigrate. But would the game itself still be fun to play? Probably not.